Kottke: Weblog as Livelihood

A couple of days ago, seminal blogger and web artist Jason Kottke announced that he was turning his website into his full-time livelihood, paid for by the distributed support of “micropatrons.” Not “donations” or a “subscription fee,” mind you — he’s still making his weblog publicly accessible to all, and there isn’t a “tip jar” — but regular “patronship.” He even makes parallels to the Medicis and the MacArthur Foundation.

Of course, my first thought was that this was just flowery framing around a plea for donations to subsidize a popular unemployed “A-Lister’s” self-ordained celebrity status, to say nothing of the conceit of comparing oneself to a Medici beneficiary. But then, considering that other writers, artists, and even webloggers, are able to make a decent living off their work, I’m sure that Kottke, being widely read and reasonably creative, can muster up enough goodwill for enough donations to slog through his first “pro” year. If he can get enough micropatrons to be true to their annual pledges, he might even last longer than that without having to resort to other gigs too often.

Still, to go all the way with this “patronage” idea, consider that artists are patronized and comissioned by rich donors to make works with specific subjects. If Kottke really wants to go the “independent web artist” route, I suggest he go back to his creative roots and immediately revive the work which made him famous before blogs made him famous: 0sil8. Then, start getting serious: don’t just ask for money on your weblog, but start writing grant proposals to actual endowments.

What I’m wondering is this: weblogs are about our lives, but when one makes his weblog his life, what’ll it be about? Cultural and political commentary along with occasional photo albums? A dull blog? Or will it turn into a psychic resonance feedback loop like John Malkovich encountered in Being John Malkovich when he entered his own tunnel?

I was also wondering about tax itemizations, but that’s addressed in Kottke’s interview with Greg Storey.

More in this hilarious MeFi thread.

Update: MicroMedici. Brad has more on modern Medicism, link found via Anil. Angie McKaig expounds on what bothers her about Kottke’s style of micropatronage, and compares it with patronage of museums and art.

Key quote from Anil: “I believe in the idea of everyone being a Medici, except without the nasty Medici habit of infiltrating the papacy.” Wait, what’s wrong with weblog authors and their patrons becoming Pope? That would be soooo cool. If I were Pope, think of the sweeping anti-Trent evangelical reforms I would institute as fast as I could, before the Cardinals came to stab me! But that’s fodder for another post.

Update: A year later, Kottke no longer “Pro.”